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Monthly Archives: April 2013

Tickled by Tokyo

For a serious people-watcher and first-time visitor to Asia, this past month in Tokyo has felt like an extended stay in one big amusement park. As an honorary Griffen last week– my last full one in Japan– Tim, Suz, and Heidi went all out to complete my total Tokyo experience, hitting as many unusual, traditional, and entertaining spots as possible.

My first day with them, we went to a cultural fair that featured traditional Japanese dancers and drummers and food stalls from all over the world.

Then we went on a spin the through the city, stopping to look at the Imperial Palace, detached prince’s palace, and a typical Japanese electronic store… and still made it back in time to watch the London Marathon with Suz.20130429-225354.jpg(As a side note, Suz is a self-proclaimed running nerd, a fellow LetsRun fanatic, and the ideal host for a slightly banged-up athlete. Spin bike? Check. Foam roller? Check. Very obscure spiky ball used to break up fascia in a foot? Check! Largely thanks to her and her family’s extensive running resources, I’m feeling good and think I sorted my calf out before it got too feisty.)

On a nice afternoon, Suz took me on a walking tour of their neighborhood, casually stopping at the Tokyo Tower to get a 360 degree view of sprawling Tokyo…20130429-230452.jpg

and then wandering around a pretty little garden and a moving shrine where families of deceased children grieve and pray.20130429-224946.jpg

I mentioned the Griffens’ annual sushi party in an earlier post, but one mention hardly does it justice. The memory of that dinner will taunt my tastebuds for a very long time (until I sneak back over here for the 2014 party, that is!)20130429-235648.jpg

Early one morning, I got to see the source of that spectacular spread on an insider’s tour of Tsukiji, the world’s largest fish market that employs 65,000 people and brings in 7-8 billion U.S. dollars each year. Over the past twenty years, Tim has befriended some wholesale vendors so was able to slip me through some of the usually closed-to-visitor areas and show me all over the incredibly productive chaos that is Tsukiji.20130429-230720.jpg

The Griffens also took me to a few great restaurants including an izakaya place, an amazing bakery, and Heidi’s favorite ramen spot, and rescued me from ever having to try to decipher a Japanese menu. Even if I spoke fluent Japanese, however, I still wouldn’t have interfered with their impeccable taste in all things edible.20130429-224954.jpg

Their food expertise extends beyond ordering, however, as Suz proved through an awesome seafood risotto and Tim demonstrated with his world-famous pizza. He’s known for creating some crazy concoctions like pumpkin curry pizza and Japanese pizza, and treated us to Mega Veggie and Thai Chicken varieties one night.20130429-225004.jpg

One night they joined me and a former Watson Fellow for dinner and another former fellow’s jazz concert in the Park Hyatt Hotel, which you might recognize from Lost in Translation. I found it awesome that both guys moved to Tokyo after spending part of their fellowships here and are still very involved with their Watson projects (Andre looked at Japanese gardens and is now getting his PhD in Japanese history, and Kevin studied music-making in urban settings and now makes a living doing just that).20130429-234807.jpg

Another highlight of my week was visiting Susan and Heidi’s favorite onsen and experiencing fish therapy for the first time.20130429-230758.jpg
I might have squealed spontaneously for the full fifteen minutes…

But at least I was in good company!

So I guess it’s official– I’ve been literally and figuratively tickled by Tokyo. Thanks, Griffen clan, for whisking me all around this spectacular city and filling me with fascinating tidbits about Japan, seafood, architecture, and radish-plucking devices and such. My future house guests will owe y’all for showing me what a supremely generous, fun, and gracious host family looks like, and I’m hoping that will be you in not too long!20130429-231039.jpg

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Posted by on April 29, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

Makenki, Ekiden, and the Japanese Approach to Running

A few things distinguish the Japanese distance running scene from its counterparts around the world. As I enter my final week in Tokyo, I’ll summarize some of the major differences I’ve discovered in this country’s approach to the sport.

Mass Participation

First of all, road running in Japan is somewhat of a national pastime, not too unlike that in the East African countries but without the dynamic of poverty and desperation at play.

If you’ve ever been to a marathon in the U.S., you might think that road running is pretty popular among the public. Compared to other countries and other sports in the U.S., however, it’s really not. As an example from Runner’s World, “While U.S. marathon broadcasts rarely creep above 1 percent ratings, in Japan a 10 percent rating for a major ekiden or marathon would be a disappointment; certain athletes and events can bring Super Bowl-like 40-plus percent ratings.”20130424-083342.jpgAs another example, in the U.S., you typically have to pay money to steam a major marathon like Boston or New York on your computer. In contrast, getting excited about distance running doesn’t require a concerted effort in Japan; marathons and road races are broadcast on live television for up to seven or eight hours, and attract a large enough fan base to justify it.

The Tokyo Marathon has become so massive and competitive that next year, it will join Berlin, Boston, Chicago, Berlin and London as the sixth World Marathon Major. Based on the number of applicants for this year’s race– 304,540 for the full marathon and an oversubscription rate of 10.3– it’s safe to say that Tokyo is well on its way to hosting one of the most competitive marathons in the world. In fact, that’s the goal! Tokyo is also one of six cities bidding to host the 2020 Olympics, along with Baku, Azerbaijan; Doha, Qatar; Istanbul, Turkey; Madrid, Spain; and Rome, Italy. The decision will be made this September so keep your eyes peeled!20130424-081548.jpg(Sorry– couldn’t help myself. And Google delivered.)

Makenki Spirit

If you consider the highest values and ideals in Japan, it’s not surprising that distance running totally thrives here. Brendan Reilly put it nicely when he wrote, “The very nature of long-distance running resonates with the Japanese spirit. Endurance, perseverance, and the will to never-give-up-no-matter-how-damn-uncomfortable-it-gets are core Japanese values. A popular proverb is Nana-korobi, ya-oki (Fall down seven times, get up eight times.) One of the highest compliments that can be paid to an athlete is to say that he or has makenki, roughly translated as ‘the spirit not to lose.'” Makenki can be compared to “guts” in the United States and “sisu” in Finland (which I can tell you more about come June), and is taken to the extreme in Japanese athletic competitions.

Ekidens

Nowehere is the makenki spirit more evident than in the ekiden. The tradition of that discipline began in 1917 as a commemoration of the movement of the Japanese capital from Kyoto to Tokyo, and was staged in a 3-day event between the two. Now, every winter, Japanese and international runners and astounding numbers of interested, ordinary citizens celebrate the sport during a series of fiercely competitive long distance road relays.20130424-183041.jpg

There’s no uniform distance or number of legs of an ekiden, as each one has developed its own course and personality. The National High School Ekidens, for example, are composed of half-marathon legs for women and full marathons for men, while the New Year Ekiden features 7-person teams running stages between 8.3 and 22.0 kilometers to cover a total race distance of 100.0 km. The common thread among the various ekidens is the wild enthusiasm, public support, and extreme competitiveness that pulses through the country during ekiden season. Each one is a dramatic defense of one’s loyalty and the tasuki, or sacred sash that also serves as a baton, symbolizes years’ worth of every team member’s training, setbacks, sacrifices, and dreams.

High school, university, and professional teams are so serious about putting together the most competitive relay possible that, like many NCAA recruiters, they venture overseas to extract the best runners they can find (although there are now restrictions as to the number of foreigners on each roster). Remember Sammy Wanjiru, the Beijing Olympic Marathon Champion from Kenya who died from a tragic balcony fall (or suicide) in 2011?20130423-172350.jpgHe achieved his big international breakthrough while running for Sendai Ikuei High School, during which he set a stage record (22:40 for 8.1 km) at the 2004 National High School Ekiden Championships and led his team to the team course record along the way.

Some people speculate that the raging emphasis on the ekidens– largely an internal competition– is responsible for the surprising lack of elite Japanese runners on major international podiums. Whether that’s true or not, these races garner efforts bordering on masochistic as well as unbridled public enthusiasm for distance running comparable to few, if any, athletics events in the world. From the perspective of a country where distance running is a very niche and off-the-radar sport, it’s hard to see the fault in that.

Here’s a short video clip from the 2011 Hakone Ekiden, arguably the biggest and best of them all. The grit of the runners and energy of the crowd are hard to miss and easy to inspire:

Corporate Teams

Another difference in the Japanese running world is the heavy involvement of corporations. While it’s rare for an American runner to receive sponsorship from non-running stores or brands, Japanese runners are financially supported and employed by companies ranging from department stores and automakers to cosmetic makers and even a lingerie shop.

Once an athlete is selected for membership to a team, he or she is given nearly every resource imaginable to succeed as a runner: housing, food, stipends, coaches, nutritionists, physical therapists, and a very rigid schedule. Typically the teams meet for a morning run, put in a half day’s work at the corporate sponsor’s office, and meet again in the afternoon for the main workout. In addition, they attend regular gasshuku (training) camps in other areas of Japan and abroad.

Training of The Elite

Finally, the way that elite Japanese runners train is reflective of their makenki spirit and the diligence and work ethic of the society from which they come. It’s not fair or accurate to squeeze the training systems of all high-level Japanese runners under one umbrella, but there are definitely some characteristics that set athletes from this country apart and are worth mentioning and maybe even emulating:

  • Volume: The staple of most runners, both males and females, is high mileage. It’s not uncommon for female marathoners to put in 60k (37 mile) long runs, or male marathoners to run weekly volumes over 200 miles. As an example, Yuko Arimori (pictured below), a woman who won silver and bronze medals in 2 Olympic marathons, ran 750 miles per month (averaging a marathon a day) during heavy training blocks and once did two 20-kilometer time trials in a single day.
  • 20130424-180855.jpg

  • Marathon-orientation: Along the same lines, the marathon is the pinnacle of distance events here. So much so, in fact, that relative to its depth of world-class marathoners, Japan produces shockingly few middle distance runners. Some coaches are beginning to share the focus with shorter distance events, but I imagine that it will take a good while to stray from the deeply-ingrained marathon fixation.

  • True easy days: Japanese runners are the champions of recovery runs. While they’re able to take their bodies to very dark places during workouts, they’re also able to back off tremendously on designated easy days. Even the best of the best distance runners aren’t above an 8- or 9-minute plod, subscribing to the belief that time spent on one’s legs is productive despite the pace (a very different camp from many American runners who avoid “junk miles” that they fear tire their legs out without much aerobic benefit).

  • Monotony and mental strength: Loop courses are another major component of Japanese distance training. Whether they were created out of necessity due to populous cities and limited running space, or with the purpose of mental-sharpening and pace-mastering, long runs consisting of multiple short loops are regular features of many distance runners. Toshihiko Seko, 2-time Olympic marathoner and former world record holder, famously did many long runs around Yoyogi Park (which I’ve run around and haven’t found a circuit longer than 2 miles). Oh, and in addition to running 200-300 mile weeks regularly, Seko ran one 630 mile week (nope, not a typo; that’s six-hundred and thirty miles in a week, or ninety miles a day).
  • 20130424-100115.jpgJim– what do you think? Should we go for it?!

    If you’re interested in learning more about these and other distinctly-Japanese elements of distance running, take a look at Brendan Reilly’s Where the Marathon Matters article from Runner’s World or Japan Running News, an amazingly comprehensive site run by Namban Rengo runner Brett Larner. And if you’re still intrigued, jet-set on over and see what it’s all about! Since I’m in Japan out of ekiden season, I definitely plan to come back to see some in action. Better yet, why not stockpile some makenki and get in the mix?

    *Pictures in this post snagged from tokyo42195.org, idioms4you.com, bilingualmonkeys.com, espn.go.com, sporting-heroes.net, berlin.iaaf.org, and moti-athletics-histo.blogspot.com

     
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    Posted by on April 23, 2013 in Uncategorized

     

    Remember Tamagotchis?

    20130412-192152.jpgI’m living in the birthplace of those glorious digital pets, so obviously I’m having a riotous time. Let me share some of the things I’ve been up to since I landed in Tokyo two weeks ago… because I promise I do more than just eat and run!

    Thanks to my first host, Bonnie, an avid scuba diver who runs with Namban Rengo (check out her diving blog here), I got an awesome introduction to Japan and Asia for that matter. In addition to all of the fabulous eating we did, we also poked around a few of Tokyo’s most iconic shrines and participated in some neat religious traditions. Here we are at a couple shrines in the Asakusa area. The top left picture is the most famous Buddhist shrine in the city, the Asakusa Kannon shrine, which is massive, ornate, and laced with symbols and rituals. 20130419-105732.jpg

    The back of the entrance features two massive rope sandals (waraji) that were constructed for Kannon, the bodhisattva who represents compassion and who the shrine was built for.20130419-111619.jpg

    Upon entering the complex, there’s a sheltered area that contains hundreds of paper fortunes in wooden drawers. Following the honor code, in typical Japanese style, you put 100 yen ($1) into a slot, pick a stick out from a metal container, find the box that corresponds to the number on the stick, and pull out the fortune inside. My fortune was mostly good so I got to keep my slip, but Bonnie’s was pretty ominous so, per tradition, she tied it on a wire to rid herself of that burden.20130419-110623.jpg

    Walk a little further and you come to a brick structure that looks like a well with smoke blowing out of it. Before entering the shrine, people wave smoke over their face and hair for good luck.20130419-110812.jpg

    When you approach the main part of the shrine, you’re supposed to drop a few 5-cent coins into a metal grate, clap your hands twice, and say a prayer. Then you can walk up to the lavish gold altar dedicated to Kannon.20130419-111630.jpg

    After an awesome introduction to Tokyo, I moved in with another Namban runner, Mary, and her husband Peter for week #2. It didn’t take long for me to feel right at home in their neat Shibuya home and for Mary and I to bond over some major similarities: we’re both part of two sets of twins (and she has 3 more sibs on top of that!), both she and my mom are from upstate New York, and we share an intense love of NYT crosswords (shout-out Mom and Grammy), Modern Family, and American Idol. In addition to showing Will Shortz who’s boss and enjoying two awesome sushi dinners (described here), we had a really entertaining weekend.

    On Saturday, I tagged along to an annual hanami party thrown by some local brewers in Yoyogi Park. Although I guess it wasn’t technically a hanami, which occurs while the cherry blossoms are in full bloom, I enjoyed a sunny afternoon with new friends under those impatient trees. The park was more crowded and colorful than Luke’s beanie baby drawer back in the day and I loved how so many people took advantage of the gorgeous weather.20130419-113941.jpg

    Especially this guy.20130419-113958.jpg

    On Sunday, Peter and I got an early start with two of his friends, Mika and Murphy, and took a few trains to a nearby mountain range. The day started off right with my first glimpse of Mt. Fuji from the train and some sneakily discounted coffee (get at me if you want to spend less on Starbucks and aren’t ashamed to dig in the trash).20130419-114448.jpg

    The three of them plus another friend are training for a 100k charity walk called the Oxfam Trailwalker next month, so we did about 25k of the course. It was incredibly refreshing to be in nature after a few weeks in busy, bustling Tokyo. We got to see some beautiful Japanese homes, lush green tea plantations, and colorful koi windsocks celebrating the upcoming holiday of Children’s Day along the way.20130419-115029.jpg

    I also went to Mary’s school one morning this week and it was a total hoot! Her kids are precious and hilarious and she is the kind of teacher I’d kill to have. Her kids get guest visits from real sumo wrestlers (and chances to “wrestle” them), have petting zoos at school, and are getting ready for an aquarium field trip this week. Am I too old to re-enroll with this lot?20130420-083437.jpg

    On a less jovial note, I’m currently facing my first running niggle of the trip, and my first ever away from my coach and trainers. Dead shoes, flat roads, and hard terrain these past couple weeks are probably the culprit of what we think is a calf strain. While giving the old wheels a rest and cross-training is never ideal, this set-back is giving me a revived appreciation for my health and the sport that surfaces most powerfully during time off. Injuries are also a very real element of distance-running everywhere in the world, so this one gave me an excuse to try out a very Asian form of healing: acupuncture.20130420-084527.jpgHopefully that session kick-started the healing process and I’ll be good to go in a few days. I’ll keep ya posted!

    I’m now all settled into my FIFTIETH bed of the year, in the beautiful home of the lovely Griffen family. My stay started off on an awesome note with a delicious izakaya dinner last night and a hot cappuccino greeting me bright and early this morning. I truly don’t know how I end up with the most amazingly generous, hospitable, interesting, and fun hosts (with spectacular taste in food), but I do, and I’m so thankful for each and every one of them. They constantly remind me that, for every crazed, destructive person in the world, there are countless more with pure intentions and huge hearts.

    Have a great weekend, folks! Keep those prayers rolling for everyone affected by the Boston and West, Texas tragedies.

    Finally, good luck to all you Mt. Sac competitors. Let that magical track do its thing and enjoy sunny Cali!

     
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    Posted by on April 19, 2013 in Uncategorized

     

    Tastes of Tokyo

    If you couldn’t tell from my previous post, one of my favorite things about Japan is the food. It’s so good, in fact, that I briefly toyed with the idea of becoming a sushi chef. Like most of my impulsive ideas (shoes made of marshmallows, copying the entire dictionary, etc.), however, I realized there are a few kinks involved. And that it’d be silly to spend 17 years of my life learning how to make something I can get just a hop, skip and a jump away. So I think I’ll let these guys keep doing their thing (creating perfection on a plate) while I keep doing my thing (marveling, eating, and hatching other nonsensical ideas)…

    That dexterity– so impressive.

    Sushi on a skateboard– I can get used to that!

    20130415-092627.jpgMy first standing sushi bar and taste of sea urchin, thanks to the marvelous Mary and Peter

    20130415-092802.jpgSusan and Tim’s annual sushi-making party– hands down the coolest, freshest dinner I’ve ever eaten

    While the sushi here is divine, that’s not all that Japan’s got!

    Bonnie, my fabulous first week host, took me to a few great restaurants, taught me how to make one of her mom’s soups, gave me some chopstick lessons, and treated me to my first whole-fish-eating experience.20130412-113342.jpg

    Bob introduced me to one of my new favorite meals, yakitori (skewered meat), and some other scrumptious morsels that solidified my love of Japanese cuisine.20130412-114222.jpg

    I also got to explore an outdoor seafood market and some of the “food gardens” that lie below Tokyo’s major department stores.20130416-211643.jpgEver wondered what a $200 cantaloupe looks like? Well there you have it!

    I promise I’ve been doing more than just eating these past two weeks– more on that soon. Until then, I’ll keep soaking up this tastebud-tickling city and I encourage you to do the same wherever you are.

    I also ask you all to keep those involved in yesterday’s tragic Boston Marathon bombing in your thoughts and prayers.

     
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    Posted by on April 15, 2013 in Uncategorized

     

    Yo, Tokyo!

    When I flew out of New Zealand one week ago, I left the last of my English-speaking destinations and took my first of a few flights in the direction of home. Now, a few countries, one major time zone change, and no major holidays stand between me and the Big D on July 22nd. But there’s still tons of the world left to explore, miles to cover, and fun to be had…

    Starting now, in Tokyo! I’m a week deep into my stay here and have experienced both a running and cultural atmosphere unlike any I’ve come into contact with before. I’ll start with my running escapades and my next post will cover some more sedentary stuff.

    First of all, Tokyo is a lot of things: vibrant, colorful, bustling, exciting, and delicious. One thing it’s not, however, is a running paradise. The streets and sidewalks are congested, the pollution is stifling, green space is sparse, and it’s mostly flat as the corpse in “Light as a feather, stiff as a board.” (If you didn’t play that as a child, it’s not too late. And while we’re at it, might I suggest a round of Dizzy Grizzlies or two?)

    However, if you do enough snooping around, you can find some good places to run and some even better people to run with. After all, running is massively popular here, so I knew there must be places to escape the urban madness and log some decent miles. Before I arrived, I was fortunate enough to connect with Bob Poulson, chairman of the Namban Rengo international running club, and get some good tips on the Tokyo running scene. Through him, I’ve gotten to meet an awesome array of runners of all levels and backgrounds, to live with members of the club, and to explore bits of Tokyo in my favorite way: running!

    Although most of my first week’s runs were up and down a paved street, I’m now staying near a great park called Yoyogi. It’s a great place for picnicking and people-watching and has a nice dirt trail that runs along the perimeter.20130412-103236.jpg(Thought I was bad at reading maps in my own language? Just wait til you see me use one in Japanese!)

    This past weekend, I experienced a unique blend of running and Japanese tradition through an “onsen run” that Bob organized. About a dozen Namban members and I stashed our backpacks in some of the public lockers that are conveniently scattered all over the city and took off on a nice run along a shady path. A few cherry blossoms were hanging on (although they bloomed early this year and I just missed them) and I loved all the neat Japanese architecture and gardens we ran by.20130412-101200.jpg

    We ended back at the lockers and walked next door to an onsen, or hot spring bathhouse, to clean up and rejuvenate before dinner. Other than a few giggly moments in YMCA locker rooms, this was my first encounter with public nudity that I’ll admit took some getting used to. Once I accepted the fact that everyone was naked and no one (but maybe me) felt awkward about it, I relaxed a bit and enjoyed the popular Japanese pastime.

    Here’s how it works: men and women enter separate facilities, strip down entirely, and enter a bathing area to shower off (usually sitting on a stool). Once you’re clean, you’re free to roam around the array of indoor and outdoor spas, each of which is a little different (jets/no jets, sitting/standing, regular water/gold water– still not sure what was in that one). There’s also a sauna and a very cold bath, which brought out the running nerd in me and doubled as an ice bath. When you’ve had your fill of the baths, you shower off once more, put on fresh clothes, and emerge clean as a whistle! Afterwards, I enjoyed a big bowl of soba noodles and vegetables while getting to know some interesting and lovely Nambaners.20130412-100209.jpg

    On Wednesday night, I got a totally different glimpse into the Tokyo running environment when I showed up at Namban’s weekly track practice. I heard that the track gets crowded, as it’s only open to the public for a few hours a week, but I was not prepared for the running carnival that I encountered:20130412-101046.jpg
    It put a whole new spin on the idea of a full track! However, given the crowd, things were controlled and efficient, and people practiced proper track etiquette for the most part (faster runners on the inside lanes, passing on the outside, being aware of your surroundings, etc.). I don’t think that such a busy track would make a productive training area in most places, but it totally works here and creates a pretty inspiring atmosphere to train in.

    Afterwards, as per tradition, the club members and I took another public bath in a sento and walked across the street for drinks and socializing. We splintered off into a few separate groups for dinner and I got my first bowl of authentic ramen noodles.20130412-101859.jpg

    Clearly, Namban Rengo does it right: hard training followed by delicious meals and fun mingling. I look forward to discovering more Tokyo training grounds and traditions with them over the next few weeks, and will be back soon with some non-running thoughts on my first week here. If you like Japanese food (and believe me, you do), you’re in for a treat!

     
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    Posted by on April 11, 2013 in Uncategorized

     

    Queen Street Golden Mile and Waiatarua Circuit

    I left Auckland last week in the best way possible: with two new personal records and some awesome new friends.

    My first PR came at the Queen Street Golden Mile, a race in downtown Auckland that begins on a decline and that hasn’t been run since Mike Boit of Kenya ran the still-standing world’s fastest mile (3:28.44) thirty years ago.

    On Easter Monday, I competed in the International Women’s division and raced a mile on the road for the first time. Due to that, the downhill start, and the fact that three of my competitors have run 4:30 or faster for a mile and two were in the London Olympic 1500, I wasn’t sure what to expect but was prepared for a blazing first 400 meters.QueenStreetMile
    Although the course has been revamped since 1973, with the starting line further downhill so that runners now miss the steepest portion and run longer on the flat, that first section felt frighteningly reminiscent of my high school sprinting and hurdling days. But with my mind made up in advance to lock in with the leaders from the gun, there was no room for hesitation or brakes.

    Six of us separated early on and I stayed attached until the top three made a move about halfway. The next three of us strung out a bit on the flat and I found myself in sixth place, but definitely within reach of fifth, with about a quarter to go. Keying into my target ahead, I searched for the gear change that Jim and I have been working on for the past year and found it at the last moment to overtake fifth and finish in a 4:32 personal best. With the downhill start, I can’t actually claim that time as a flat PB but I do aim to reach that realm in the not too distant future.

    Susan Kuijken of the Netherlands won in 4:17, followed closely by Zoe Buckman of Australia and Lucy Van Dalen of New Zealand. Each of them ran around 8-10 seconds off their best mile times, giving me a little indication as to what my effort might have been worth on a track.

    The Golden Mile was a really fun, unique event and it was a privilege to be a part of the race’s resurgence. I would love to see it take off in the future and to give another go at one of the world’s fastest road races in future years.

    Two days later, with my races finished and one day left in New Zealand, I got my chance to take a crack at the Waitarua Circuit, the 22-mile run that revolutionary distance coach Arthur Lydiard’s athletes used to run every Sunday. Both Peter Snell and Barry Magee mentioned that long run as one of the most foundational and important aspects of their training- even for 800 meter specialist Snell- but also as one of the most grueling and mentally callusing. WaiataruaElevation

    Hayden, who has now hosted me three separate times with his wife Charlotte, offered to keep me company on his bike, ensure that I made all the right turns (although I still didn’t trust myself and made sure to tuck the directions in my sports bra), and do some filming for his Runner’s Guide series.Directions

    We parked in front of Lydiard’s old house, a stunningly unassuming abode for such a coaching giant, and took off on what used to be quiet dirt roads but has since become busy, congested, and paved.LydiardsHouse

    I ran the first quarter on the sidewalk of a busy road, so was excited when we turned off on a much more peaceful, empty stretch of road. I was less excited about the enormous hill in front of me, which I swear grew each time I turned a corner, but I was also eager to take on the challenge that clearly did some good for the guys who tackled it regularly.

    After some rolling hills followed by 4 kilometers of steady climbing, I was pretty pumped to reach the summit of the Waiatarua circuit.Summit

    Soon after, I approached the halfway mark and Hayden pointed out the hidden water source where Lydiard’s athletes used to rehydrate. It was a little dried up when we got there, but I now regret not bottling up some just in case there’s a little magic in the water.WaterStop

    After a few more unexpected rolling hills, the last segment of the run was mostly downhill and the final miles clicked right along. It was really awesome having Hayden along for the journey, which ended up being my longest run ever by 2 miles. New territories- I love it! WindyRoad

    My reward after the run was a 3:30 wake-up the next morning followed by a 12-hour flight and a healthy dose of jet lag. I’m finally feeling rested and adjusted to Tokyo time, so will be back soon with an update on my awesome introduction to Asia!

     
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    Posted by on April 8, 2013 in Uncategorized

     

    March Madness

    Here’s what I got up to in March:
    img005(1)

    After two sublime months in New Zealand, I just uprooted and landed in Tokyo, my base for all of April. Before I update y’all about my exciting new home, I have one final Auckland running post that’s in the works.

    Happy April, everyone! And more importantly, Happy Birthday to my sweet Aunt Debbie. That gal is a bundle of fun, style, spunk and love, and the reason I (very) occasionally know what nail polish color is in, which boots I can pull off, and what celebrity couple is all the rage. I love you and like you so much, Deb, and owe you a major Parigi date the moment I`m back!

     
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    Posted by on April 5, 2013 in Uncategorized